My Pet Has Bad Breath, Now What?

bad breath ew

Fluffy jumps up and gives you a kiss and you notice a smell. What is that terrible smell? You then realize it's her mouth! One of the first signs of periodontal (dental) disease that owners notice is a bad smell in the mouth. That awful rotting smell is the smell of bacteria slowly destroying the gums and bone in the mouth creating loose teeth and other dental problems. Advanced periodontal disease can lead to organ failure as well as the bacteria enters the body and travels to the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. So you've smelled the smell, now what?

Step One: The oral exam
oral exam

Once you smell that smell, make an appointment! It's time for a veterinarian to take a look and see how far progressed the dental disease is. As we discussed in the first article, periodontal disease is graded on scale of 1-4, 1 being the least destructive and 4 having irreparable damage. The veterinarian will evaluate the mouth as the best they can with the pet awake and determine how bad the disease is. If it is low grade, they may recommend some at home treatments or care you can do to help. With higher grade disease, it may be time to consider a cleaning under anesthesia.

Step Two Part A: At home care is recommended

Now that your veterinarian knows what is going, he or she can now better direct you on where to go from here. "The dental talk" can go in a few different directions. If you are not already practicing dental care at home, if the dental disease grade is low, it is time to consider brushing your pet's teeth. Always use pet safe toothpaste (no fluoride as it is poisonous to our animal friends) such as CET tooth paste is a great place to start. A finger toothbrush or small toothbrush is a great instrument but sometimes can be scary for pets if they have not seen one before. Start by placing a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger directly or on a gauze square and move your finger around their mouths to get them used to the idea of having something in there. If they tolerate that well, you can try a finger toothbrush or regular toothbrush next. Daily brushing is important to prevent dental disease from progressing any further and can help treat very minor issues that may be present. You can use brushing in conjunction with VOHC-approved dental products. A list of these products can be found online or simply ask a staff member at Westarbor for more information. We will discuss these products more in depth in another article.

Step Two Part B: A cleaning is recommended

If your veterinarian has found grade 2-4 dental disease, they may recommend a more extensive dental cleaning under anesthesia. We know this can be scary, no one wants their pet to go under anesthesia but sometimes it is an important part of their care. At Westarbor, we are careful to tailor anesthesia protocols to your pet because we know no two pets are the same. We also remain aware of any risks your pet may have (heart conditions, organ dysfunction, etc.) and make sure anesthesia is safe for them. We use sevo and isoflurane for our patients which are the same anesthetics used in human hospitals as well. We also use anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and opioids to keep your patient pain-free and safe. All of our technicians are licensed, which means they have gone to school to practice veterinary technology and have sat through board exams to receive their license. Dr. Clarkson is an accomplished referral dentistry veterinarian and will be with your pet every step of the way. We keep you informed throughout the process and make sure you, as the owner, are part of the decision making process. We will clean their teeth using the same instruments they do with humans as well as specialized tools to make sure those teeth are clean again. We also offer dental x-ray to help us determine how far the disease has progressed and how in-danger the teeth are because of it. They get a complete and comprehensive cleaning to make sure they receive the best care possible. In another article, we will go very in depth as to what goes on exactly in cleanings.

Step Three: Make a change!
Now that you know what is happening with your pet's teeth, it's time to make a lifestyle change! Even pets with chronic disease (grade 3-4 dental disease) benefit from having their teeth cared for at home. Once a cleaning has been performed, that is when at home care becomes the most important. Start brushing their teeth at least a few times a week if not daily. Consider switching to a dental diet such as Hill's Science Diet t/d if recommended. Follow your veterinarian's instructions on how often your pet should have a cleaning. If they do not make any specific recommendations, make sure they have their mouth checked at their annual or bi-annual exam. When you brush, pay attention to your pet's teeth. Are they developing more tartar build up? Are you noticing a lot of odor? Are there any lumps that shouldn't be there or an excessive amount of gum bleeding? Any of these things can be signs that problems are returning and your pet should be examined. You are the first line of defense to keep your pet's mouth healthy and happy. Be motivated and observant and keep those chompers happy!!

If you have any questions or think your pet would benefit from an oral exam, call us today! We would be happy to schedule an exam for your pet and see if there's anything lurking. Remember, you receive 10% your dental procedure, if one is recommended, for the month of February!

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